The addictive smartphone game “Flappy Bird,” which had players guide a bird through an obstacle course of metal pipes, became the No. 1 game in the App Store last month. Then, out of the blue, it disappeared.
The popular game's rise and fall is a lesson in how a business owner's customer engagement, particularly through social media, isn't always a wonderful thing. In fact, in Flappy Bird's case, an overwhelming amount of customer engagement and feedback ultimately stressed out the developer and contributed to the game's demise.
Flappy Bird was pulled from app stores on February 9 after developer Dong Nguyen said players had become obsessed with his game, which was reportedly generating $50,000 in revenues per day at its peak. Though Nguyen decided to kill Flappy Bird, it can still be played on smartphones that had already downloaded it. That’s led to an unsurprising frenzy of people trying to sell smartphones with Flappy Bird on eBay. Tons of Flappy Bird clones have also popped up since the game was pulled.
So why would a developer discontinue a game that’s so wildly popular?
Nguyen told the Washington Post that his game had “a negative effect”—to the point where people were spending hours upon hours playing it. He had originally intended it to be a fun few-minute diversion, not the obsessive time-suck it became.
Also, many of Nguyen's almost 1,000 tweets were conversations with customers. Though customer engagement through social media is generally considered an effective business tactic, Nguyen's extreme responsiveness with some of his 162,000 followers seemed to pose challenges as great to him as his game posed to players. He wrote a series of tweets in the hours before yanking Flappy Birds that suggested he just couldn’t deal with all the comments about the addictiveness of the game, according to Mashable. “Press people are overrating the success of my games,” he tweeted. “It is something I never want. Please give me peace.”
In response, some Flappy Bird fans tweeted back with death and suicide threats, suggesting the game's addictive powers perhaps weren't so exaggerated.
The Flappy Bird phenomenon shows that active social media engagement and viral success can lead not just to stardom, but to the death of a product. Nguyen's last tweet before shutting down Flappy Bird was, "And I still make games." With many of his fans already tweeting their anticipation of his next creation, Flappy Bird watchers are hoping Nguyen has better luck playing the customer engagement game in his next round.
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